The acquittal of Bollywood star Salman Khan in two 18-year-old chinkara poaching cases on Monday comes as a "massive shock and disappointment for people across the nation who care for animals", said a PETA India official.
Poorva Joshipura, CEO of the animal rights organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, expressed concern that the verdict could "encourage others to try their luck and kill wild animals".
"Whether you're a film star or not, the public expects wildlife protection laws and punishments for violating them to apply equally to everyone.
"While we do not know the details of what transpired in court, we can say that this verdict will come as a massive shock and disappointment for people across the nation who care for animals as they will likely feel it makes light of animal protection laws," Joshipura said in a statement.
"The clean-chit verdict may encourage others to try their luck and to kill wild animals. Salman Khan has in recent years expressed he cares about dogs and we hope that this experience will encourage him to expand that circle of compassion to other species and to use his star status to now speak out against hunting and other cruelty," Joshipura added.
Salman had appealed before the Jodhpur bench of the high court challenging a lower court verdict in 2006 handing him a one and five-year term in the two separate cases of poaching.
On Monday, Justice Nirmaljit Kaur while allowing Salman's appeal, acquitted him of all charges and also dismissed the state government appeal for enhancing the sentence.